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Monday, January 19, 1998 Published at 16:16 GMT

Sport: Football

Gunners aim for the twin towers

Arsenal are investigating the possibility of setting up home at the refurbished Wembley Stadium.

The club want to increase crowd capacity for games at Highbury where accommodation is currently limited to just over 38,000.

Arsenal have been awarded a planning brief from the council to redevelop their own stadium but the the club faces stiff opposition to any plans from people living near the stadium in north London.

The Gunners have already earmarked at least two possible sites for relocation. Initial discussions have taken place with the owners of Wembley, which will undergo a massive facelift starting in June next year.

[ image:  ]
Arsenal's chairman Peter Hill-Wood has also had preliminary discussions with Keith Wiseman, the Chairman of the Football Association which uses Wembley for England's international matches and top domestic fixtures such as the FA Cup final.

Wembley to undergo renovation

Rebuilding work at the national stadium will take a minimum of two years but the club believe it is a real option if their hopes of increasing capacity to about 50,000 at Highbury - their home since 1913 - are blocked.

The major renovation project at Wembley is expected to cost about £240m, although there are no plans to increase crowd capacity beyond the present 80,000.

A statement from the club said: "Arsenal have recently been considering ways of increasing crowd capacity.

Wembley spokesman Martin Corrie said: "As a commercial organisation we are always looking at business opportunities and we are aware of Arsenal's interest in possibly using Wembley Stadium.

"There have been some informal conversations with Arsenal but I must stress that they were very preliminary discussions. It has got nowhere near being discussed at boardroom level between us and we know that Arsenal have very many other options to explore in their plan to increase the opportunity for more of their fans to watch Arsenal matches."

FA's 'urgent attention'

[ image: FA public affairs director David Davies]
FA public affairs director David Davies
Wembley, which will close down for the start of redevelopment work shortly after next year's FA Cup final, also has contracts with the Rugby Football League to host their major cup finals on an annual basis and the Nationwide Football League who hire the stadium to stage the Coca-Cola Cup final and the divisional promotion play-off finals.

The Welsh Rugby Football Union has also recently entered into an agreement with Wembley to stage three international matches while Cardiff Arms Park is being redeveloped.

FA public affairs director David Davies said they would be giving Arsenal's announcement urgent attention. He said: "The FA is aware of today's [Monday's] statement by Arsenal.

"It clearly has important implications for all those involved in the partnership that has been developing the National Stadium project, notably the English Sports Council, Wembley Stadium Ltd and ourselves as well as other sports."


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